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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Frush, Lehman renew their bag tax ripoff campaign

These people seem to use any argument they can find, any emotional appeal they can make--to control the lives of the people while at the same time grabbing more money.

In this case, it appears that both paper and plastic bags are evil--bad for the environment.  EXCEPT when they are used to produce tax revenue the politicians can spend on their pet projects. 

Also note that, as seems to be increasingly the case, the Gazette "news" story only presents one side of the issue, with no attempt at balance or citing arguments for, or interviewing advocates of the opposing point of view.


Maryland Community News
Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Prince George's delegates to again consider disposable bag fee
by Jamie Anfenson-Comeau Staff writer

Paper or Plastic? Either way, Prince George's County shoppers may join their neighbors in Montgomery County and Washington D.C. in paying for their disposable bags if a bill under consideration passes.

The bill has failed to pass the past three years in a row, but supporters think the fourth time may be the charm.

"We've built on support every year," said County Councilwoman Mary Lehman (Dist. 1) of Laurel, who has been an outspoken supporter of the bill. "There's an awareness that didn't exist four or five years ago. So I'm hopeful, and we're going to keep at it."

The bill, PG402-14, would allow the Prince George's County Council to impose a fee of up to five cents on retail disposable bags, paper or plastic, as part of retail sales.

Similar fees are already in place in Montgomery County and Washington, D.C., which both charge a five cent per bag fee.

"When it comes to addressing litter, we're really being left behind, with Montgomery County and D.C. taking such strong action to clean up their communities," said Lehman, who testified Monday in support of the bill during a public hearing. "I don't believe it reflects well on our county."

The bill was one of 32 introduced Monday during a public hearing by the county delegation at the Prince George's County Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

The bills will be taken up by the General Assembly in its next session, which begins Jan. 8.

County residents were invited to give testimony on the bills and the four that spoke on the disposable bag fee bill supported the measure.

Martha Ainsworth of Bowie, chairwoman of the Prince George's County chapter of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental group, cited a Prince George's County Office of Community Relations publication that said the average shopper pays $15 to $37 per year in higher retail costs to cover the business' bag purchases while the county annually spends approximately $2.5 million on cleaning up plastic bag trash.

"Under this bill, disposable bags are paid by the people who choose to use them, not by the rest of us in our shopping bills," Ainsworth said. "The purpose is to offer an incentive that will reduce litter and protect the environment, not to raise revenue."

Julie Lawson of Accokeek, director of the Trash Free Maryland Alliance, said a Department of the Environment study has shown bag fees have reduced bag consumption in the District.

"Eighty percent of D.C. residents are carrying reusable bags with them, to avoid paying the fee," said Lawson.

Lawson said plastic bags make up approximately 20 percent of the trash cleaned from the Anacostia River and 50 percent of the trash cleaned from its tributaries.

Last year, the bill had enough votes to pass, said Del. Barbara Frush (D-21) of Beltsville, the House sponsor of the bill, but other delegates looking for a way to fund a bill requiring county schools install turf fields, attached amendments to her bill directing the revenue towards the fields.

"The primary purpose of the bill was to protect the environment, and turf fields do not protect the environment," Frush said. "So I withdrew the bill."

Frush said the bag fee is not a tax on county residents who already pay for the bags.

"It's not a tax, you pay for the bags every time you make a purchase," Frush said. "It's a hidden fee."

Lehman said the "clean" bill drew support from over 30 environmental, business, labor, local government and civic groups.

"It really enjoys broad support across many different types of stakeholder organizations," Lehman said.

Lehman said that if the bill is approved, the County Council will then vote whether to approve the fee and where the revenue from the fee will go.

"I don't mind spelling out that it needs to be spent for environmental purposes and for free [reusable] bags for low-income people, for education and for outreach," Lehman said.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net< © 2013 Post Community Media, LLC/Gazette.Net

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